Private healthcare must be roped in to aid during crisis

Private hospital facilities can be rented and the hospital’s services can be engaged to manage non-Covid patients, says medical expert

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BERNAMA 

A PUBLIC-PRIVATE partnership (PPP) is needed in addressing patients with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) amid the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, as the public healthcare system has stretched to its limit.

Malaysian Medical Association president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said private hospital facilities, such as operation theatres, can be rented and the hospital’s services can be engaged to manage certain non-Covid-19 patients and elective surgeries.

“The management of NCD patients should also be outsourced to private general practitioners (GPs). This can reduce the patient load at public hospitals and allow the Ministry of Health (MoH) to focus its resources on managing Covid-19 cases,” Dr Subramaniam told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He explained that untreated hernias and gall stones which can result in a number of complications, all present as emergencies.

“Delays in management of these emergencies can result in higher cost for treatments, morbidities and longer hospital stays.

On Dec 28, Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the MoH is currently dealing with a very high number of cases and logistics issues when it comes to ferrying patients to hospitals.

Hence, he advised those who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic to remain isolated at home, as they may not be taken to the hospitals immediately.

Commenting on that, Dr Subramaniam agreed that most of the patients are asymptomatic and therefore, will not require hospital admission.

“It can be monitored at low-risk treating centres or at home with proper monitoring and protocol. The GPs have been actively screening patients, and they should also be roped in to assist in monitoring asymptomatic positive patients.

“The 7,000 MoH trained GPs are an under-utilised asset to the nation during this pandemic,” he added.

Echoing the same, Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said the public health system and medical frontliners are strained with the current pandemic wave.

He predicted that the number of daily cases may not reduce significantly in the near future, thus the communities and health system must brace themselves for the situation to persist for a while.

“I have always advocated for a PPP in healthcare, more so when we are facing this crisis.

“There are plenty of qualified medical personnel in the private sector, they too can contribute a great deal towards managing this pandemic,” he told TMR.

On a separate matter, Dr Subramaniam said private clinics are still facing a dip in patient visits due to Covid.

“However, there is some relief for GPs who are participating in the Social Security Organisation’s foreign worker screening programme.

“The majority are still facing a tough time sustaining their clinics,” he added.

TMR reported in November that many small clinics are scrambling to stay afloat during the pandemic, with an estimated 200 medical clinics expected to shutter by the end of 2020 from low patient count and high rental costs.

Most clinics are now seeing an average of just 30% to 40% of their normal patient flow, said Dr Subramaniam.

Dr See also agreed that many clinics have been registering reducing patient loads with many of the older clinics even being shut down for good.

But there are some that reinvent themselves to cope with the crisis and come out better at the other end. He believes adapting to the evolving changes is important, just like in many other fields of work.

So far, Dr See said most of the insurance companies are helpful in administering help and access for their policy holders and patients.

“Admittedly, the time taken for processing at times will be lengthened due to the work from home initiative, as well as the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Conditional MCO.

“As a whole, clinics and hospitals as a whole are still processing claims for policy holders and patients with little hiccups,” he concluded.